In this week's gospel Jesus is in Galilee talking to a crowd of people who are trying to process the terrible news they have just heard from Jerusalem. Some of their fellow Galileans who were living and working in Jerusalem had been the victims of one of Pontius Pilate's violent displays of power and some others had been killed in a tower collapse. In the face of such suffering the gathered crowd must have been asking that question we ask so often when confronted with human violence and tragic accidents, "Why did this happen?" Jesus is responding in this story to what he must have know they were thinking, or maybe what they were outright saying, that these terrible things must have happened to their fellow Galileans because of sinful things they had done. This must have been their punishment.
But Jesus' response is clear. "Do you think these terrible things happened because these Galileans were worse sinners than other people? NO!" Yet, Jesus, in the face of their sadness and grief, does not offer another explanation in place of that one. Instead he reminds them that all of us are called to repent, and become aware of the ways we are causing suffering in the world. Jesus stands in the uncomfortable mystery of suffering, unwilling to explain away the grief of those gathered with him. Instead he invites those with him deeper into the mystery. No, God does not punish people for their actions, and at the same time we still need to change our ways.
Jesus is inviting everyone to live into the uncomfortable mystery of suffering, pushing back against idea that we will eventually be able to explain it away and find comfort in our certainty. This week, amidst continuing conflict in the world, both at home and abroad, pay attention to the things you are wanting to explain away? What practices can you take on to help you sit with these uncomfortable feelings? Who are the people that help you hold that uncomfortable, uncertain space? What shifts in you when you don't jump to easy answers?